A Brief And Fascinating History Of The Ukraine
As a formal country, America is only about 240 years old, although the origins can be traced back 500 years or so. We take great pride in our history. Perhaps you have visited Williamsburg, VA or Philadelphia.
Compare this to the long history of the Ukraine. Legend has it that Kiev was originally founded in 482, over 1500 years ago! However, I can recall viewing a glass display case outside the Londonskaya hotel on Primorsky Boulevard in Odessa (a very nice place to stay, by the way). It contained some Greek nautical equipment dating from 500 B.C., over 2,500 years ago! So we are really the new kids on the global block.
Ukraine has an invasive history including Mongols, Tatars, Turks, Cossacks and many others. The Cossack influence is central to Ukraine’s historical legacy. You might enjoy a visit to the “Cossack Island” in Zaporozhe where you can see a museum, eat authentic food and watch actors portray battles in period costumes.
In July, 1705, Peter the Great of Russia defeated the Swedish in the battle of Poltava. You can visit the State Cultural Heritage Preserve Complex known as the "Poltava Battle Field" which consists of monuments and churches commemorating the event. Some of the Ukrainian leaders sided with the Swedes in resistance to Russia. So it is thought of as a key to their eventual independence.
Perhaps you are familiar with the Crimean War of 1854 and the famous poem “Charge of the Light Brigade”. England, France and the Ottoman Empire fought against Russia.
After WW1, much of Ukraine was ceded to Soviet Russia. During the 1930’s Stalin ordered some very cruel policies that led to the starvation, exile and slaughter of millions of Ukrainians.
Due to its unfortunate geographic position, Ukraine was stranded between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia during WW2 and the suffering of her people is legendary. Of course, eventually Russia prevailed and the country fell back into the Soviet Union ending the Nazi occupation. See the film, “Battle for Sevastopol”
When you are in Kiev, you may wish to visit the popular National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War including the famous stainless steel Motherland statue. This was originally constructed by the Soviet Union.
The famous meeting of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin took place in Yalta, Crimea in 1945 at the conclusion of the war.
Of course you will recall the explosion of the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl in 1986. It is now possible to tour the grounds of the extinct facility. This unfortunate incident and the Kremlin’s poor handling of the announcement and the eventual spread of nuclear contamination contributed to a nationalistic movement.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine declared its independence in 1991. Since then there have been a series of struggles internally including the Orange Revolution of 2004 and the now famous Euromaiden protests of 2013.
It is very difficult for us to follow or understand their complex current politics. However, if you understand a bit about Ukraine’s long and troubled history perhaps you can better appreciate how their citizens long for some of the peace and economic benefit we often take for granted.